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‘Modest’ irritant for Modi

Modi

New Delhi, Dec. 21: Narendra Modi backers are annoyed by the perceived “under-projection” of his third-time victory by central BJP leaders.

Sources said the Gujarat chief minister was peeved when he heard Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a BJP spokesperson, describe the win as “modest” on a TV channel and asked some leaders if the view was shared by others. Rudy, the sources said, was pulled up and told to amend his words, which he did later.

Other sources in Delhi claimed the “muted” response was a “strategy” to contain debate on whether Modi’s projection as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate was “inevitable”.

“The TV discussions were less about the Gujarat verdict and much more about the leadership issue. Therefore, we chose to underplay the victory because that would have fuelled the speculation even more and, perhaps, provoked strong reactions from Nitish Kumar’s people. That would have dampened the spirit,” a source said. .

Sources said Modi was particularly annoyed that his party had let go unanswered finance minister P. Chidambaram’s spin on the Gujarat results as a “victory” for the Congress. Chidambaram had pointed to the marginal fall in the BJP’s tally and equal increase in the Congress seats.

Lok Sabha Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj — otherwise on the dot on her Twitter site — was silent on Modi. She had said during the campaign that he had all the qualities needed to become Prime Minister but later moderated her statement.

Sushma’s Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley and chief party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad were the only leaders of significance to appear on TV.

BJP president Nitin Gadkari’s pithy response was that the people of Gujarat had again chosen the BJP under Modi for the state’s development.

A Modi supporter contrasted the “muted” reactions to the “joyous” outbursts of leaders, from Gadkari downwards, when the BJP won Bihar with its ally, Nitish’s Janata Dal (United), in November 2010.

“The leaders made it a point to sit in the headquarters and give sound bites. Yesterday, they went conspicuously missing,” said the supporter.

All eyes are now on leaders who are expected to attend Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in Gandhinagar on December 26.